June 19th, 2010 - Barbara Feiner
Ever feel guilty about throwing away vegetable and fruit peels, rinds or scraps?
Your intuition may tell you there’s a better way to handle these leftovers.
Composting is a great way to make use of organic matter that you would otherwise trash.
Building a compost heap is relatively easy, and it will continually give back to your garden and the environment.
According to California’s CalRecycle program, the four necessary composting ingredients are:
- Nitrogen (from sources like grass clippings or those throwaway veggie scraps)
- Carbon (from sources like sawdust or twigs)
Once your compost is at the ideal level of decomposition (uniformly dark brown and crumbly), spread it on your garden to give plants a nutrient boost.
For Your Organic Bookshelf: Let It Rot! The Gardener’s Guide to Composting
Photo courtesy of ARA
Read More:Do-It-Yourself Organic Fertilizer
June 14th, 2010 - Gerald "Gerry" Pugliese
It stinks to admit it, but most times organic foods are more expensive than the regular stuff; sometimes organic farmers markets are cheaper or about the same.
So how do you go organic on a budget, especially in this miserable United States economy? Easy, you kidnap a genie and make a wish!
No, it’s easier than that. RedPlum, a promotional company that helps sell various food products, from health foods to not-so health foods, has 10 tips for going organic on the cheap.
Guess what number one is? Shopping at a farmers market. Ha! See, I told you. Then again, organic or not, shopping at a farmers market is the best idea. Its less expensive and the produce is a lot fresher and higher quality.
Another tip I really liked is going vegetarian for a couple days each week. I’m a vegetarian and not only is it healthier for you, but fruits and vegetables are a lot cheaper than filet mignon and pork tenderloin.
RedPlum also suggests clipping coupons. No, coupons aren’t just for little old ladies anymore. In this tough economy, if a supermarket is willing to play let’s make a deal, go for it! Then again, I’m a hypocrite; using coupons feels weird to me.
For the complete list of organic tips, head over to RedPlum – do it, do it now!
Here’s some more posts on going organic on a budget:
Image credit: Boston.com
Read More:How to Be Organic On a Budget
May 28th, 2010 - Barbara Feiner
If you’re planning a Memorial Day barbecue or attending a potluck, take a cue from celebrity chef Bobby Flay: Aim for simple and delicious.
“Real food does not have to be complicated,” says Flay, one of the Food Network’s Iron Chefs. “With a few basic ingredients, it’s easy to create a meal you can feel good about serving the whole family.”
Prep time for our weekend recipe is 10 minutes, chill time is 20 minutes, and all of the ingredients should be available at a well-stocked natural and organic food store.
You can quadruple the recipe if you’re expecting a crowd.
Bobby Flay’s Smoked Chile Cole Slaw
Makes 4 servings
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons chipotle peppers in adobo sauce (available in the Mexican food aisle)
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 teaspoons honey
1 teaspoon ground cumin
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 medium head green cabbage, finely shredded
2 large carrots, finely shredded
1 small onion, halved and thinly sliced
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
- Combine mayonnaise, chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, lime juice, honey and cumin in large bowl. Season, if desired, with salt and black pepper.
- Stir in remaining ingredients.
- Cover and refrigerate at least 20 minutes before serving.
Recipe and photo courtesy of Hellmann’s/Best Foods
Read More:Bobby Flay’s Smoked Chili Cole Slaw
May 7th, 2010 - Barbara Feiner
Seasonal homemade soup can be a great Mother’s Day gift. Pour the finished product into a large mason jar, adorn the top with a bow, and add a fresh baguette from your favorite organic bakery or market.
Zucchini Soup with Herbed Cream is a fresh way to savor squash. Whenever possible, purchase your organic vegetables and herbs from local farmers’ markets or community-supported agriculture (CSA) groups.
Prep time for today’s recipe is 15 minutes, and cook time is 30 minutes.
Double the batch, and you’ll have enough for gift-giving and your own family meals.
Zucchini Soup with Herbed Cream
Makes 6 servings (1¼ cups each)
1/2 cup sour cream
4 teaspoons chopped fresh basil leaves
4 teaspoons chopped fresh oregano leaves
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped (about 1 cup)
1 clove garlic, minced
4 medium zucchini, thinly sliced (about 6 cups)
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
3 cups organic vegetable broth
- Stir sour cream, 1 teaspoon basil and 1 teaspoon oregano in small bowl. Cover and refrigerate.
- Heat oil in 4-quart saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and garlic; cook until tender.
- Add zucchini and black pepper. Cook for 5 minutes, or until zucchini is tender.
- Add broth, remaining basil and remaining oregano. Heat to a boil. Reduce heat to low. Cover and cook for 15 minutes.
- Place one-third of the zucchini mixture into a blender or food processor. Cover and blend until smooth. Pour mixture into large bowl.
- Repeat blending process twice more with remaining zucchini mixture. Return all puréed mixture to saucepan. Cook over medium heat for 5 minutes, or until hot.
- Divide soup among 6 serving bowls, and top with about 1 tablespoon sour cream mixture, using a spoon to swirl cream in a decorative pattern on soup surface.
Recipe and photo courtesy of Swanson
Read More:Zucchini Soup with Herbed Cream
May 3rd, 2010 - Barbara Feiner
If your mom loves to garden—or if you’d like to help her get started—pick up a container or two of Ecosource’s Organic Grow Your Own Seedling Starter Kits for Mother’s Day.
Nine USDA-certified organic varieties are available for last-minute shoppers (ground, 2-day or overnight shipping):
- Bell Pepper
- Heirloom Tomato
A Strawberry Kit is also available, but the seedlings are not organic.
Each kit ($15.99) contains instructions, an eco-friendly tray, high-quality soil, a reusable “greenhouse bag” and biodegradable seedling starter shells, all housed in a decorative container.
Users can start up to 10 seedlings and then transplant them into their gardens.
Ecosource founders Chad Callihan and Chuck Rose quit the corporate world and started the Decatur, GA-based company in 2006 to develop stylish, affordable and eco-friendly products.
“We’re not trying to be perfect, but we’re learning every day about how to make better choices for ourselves and the future of our children’s planet,” they state. “We hope that by sharing our experience, you’ll want to do the same.”
Read More:Mother’s Day Gift Idea: Start an Organic Garden
April 20th, 2010 - Barbara Feiner
Jim and Kristen Mitchell, a Scottsdale, AZ-based husband-and-wife team, have just launched Humble Seed, a company that offers premium organic seed kits that produce an array of edible plants.
Four themed garden kits are available:
- Hot Mama’s Peppers and Chiles (including Yankee bell, habanero, cayenne, Caribbean red and Anaheim chile peppers)
- Uncle Herb’s Favorites (including bouquet dill, common sage, Greek oregano, cumin and German winter thyme)
- Veggin’ Out (including Washington cherry tomatoes, Bull’s Blood beets, De Cicco broccoli, Marketmore cucumbers and black seeded Simpson leaf lettuce)
- The Producer, a bulk fruit and vegetable kit for community gardens and organizations
Each kit contains at least 10 premium heirloom, non-GMO, non-hybrid and organic seed packets for environmentally conscious growers.
“My whole life, I’ve been trying to find one calling—one passion that would help people,” Jim says. “I really connected to growing my own food. There are so many health, financial and environmental benefits, and creating a stable, healthy food supply reduces our reliance on other economies.”
“We are extremely excited that we’re helping empower people in a down economy,” adds Kristen. “Families can now get fresh food at a fraction of the cost found at your local produce section.”
Kits start at $21.95. The website also features books, recipes and seed-growing tips.
Humble Seed’s launch party is Thursday (Earth Day), with proceeds benefiting Waste Not, a local nonprofit organization that delivers food to more than 80 agencies that feed the hungry.
Read More:Organic Heirloom Seeds Produce Themed Gardens
April 12th, 2010 - Barbara Feiner
Residents in poor neighborhoods have historically lacked access to fresh fruits and vegetables. To make matters worse, they tend to have the highest percentage of fast-food restaurants, making healthful eating a challenge.
Now, a new study reveals that bacteria, mold and yeast levels on fresh produce may be higher in low socioeconomic areas.
Researchers at Drexel University in Philadelphia compared bacteria, yeast and mold levels on identical products sold in six area neighborhoods, three of which had the city’s highest poverty levels. Among the poorest groups, consumers were often forced to depend on small markets that offered less variety in fruits and vegetables.
The researchers found that ready-to-eat salads and strawberries sold in stores in the poorer neighborhoods had significantly higher counts of microorganisms, yeasts and molds. Cucumbers had higher yeast and mold levels, while watermelon contained more bacteria.
The Science of Rot
“Food deteriorates when there is microbial growth,” says study coauthor Jennifer Quinlan, PhD, a Drexel professor of nutrition and biology, whose study will be published in next month’s American Journal of Preventive Medicine.
“Bacterial count is used to determine the quality of the produce, and it was poorer quality—closer to being spoiled,” she says. “Three of the things that had a higher bacteria count—strawberries, ready-to-go salad and fresh-cut watermelon—have been associated with foodborne illnesses.”
Inferior produce discourages residents from adding fruits and vegetables to their diets, and smaller neighborhood stores may lack the infrastructure to handle produce safely, Dr. Quinlan notes.
“The food may be of poorer quality to begin with,” she says. “Then, it may be transported to the stores and not be refrigerated properly.
“Large supermarkets have entire units focused on food safety, refrigeration and sanitation, while a small facility with only one or two people may not have the resources.”
Basic Safety Steps
Don’t buy fresh-cut produce unless it’s refrigerated at the point of sale.
In addition, shoppers should thoroughly wash produce, advises Shelley Feist, executive director of the Partnership for Food Safety Education in Arlington, VA.
“Whole fresh produce should be rinsed under running tap water just before eating, and produce should be kept separate from meat, poultry, raw eggs and fish to avoid cross-contamination,” she says.
For Your Organic Bookshelf: Ordinary Poverty: A Little Food and Cold Storage
Read More:America’s Poor More Likely to Buy Tainted Produce
April 11th, 2010 - Barbara Feiner
To maximize your organic garden’s yield, plant vegetables and herbs that are easy to grow and versatile in a variety of dishes.
Here are the six top springtime picks from the experts at Bonnie Plants, a green-garden wholesaler in Union Springs, AL:
- Tomatoes. The most popular fruit in U.S. home gardens, tomatoes are hard to beat in terms of taste, health benefits and versatility.
- Yellow squash and zucchini. While their growing season is shorter than the tomato’s, squash are very productive. You’ll pick them every day once the season starts.
- Lettuce. As long as weather is mild, leaf lettuce will continue to produce. If you regularly enjoy salads, growing your own lettuce can offer substantial savings.
- Cucumbers. Grown in a cage or on a trellis, a single cucumber plant can produce five to 10 cukes. You can place two or three plants in a cage just 18 inches in diameter and 4 feet high. Your yield: 15 to 30 cucumbers from a slice of ground no bigger than an end table.
- Specialty peppers. Price jalapeños and other specialty peppers in the supermarket, and you’ll realize the benefit of growing your own. These peppers produce especially high yields in areas with a long, hot summer.
- Herbs. Also pricey in supermarkets, fresh herbs are easy and economical to grow. Consider planting sage, rosemary, mint, thyme and chives (one plant each), plus at least three basil plants. Try different basil varieties: sweet, cinnamon, Thai and/or boxwood.
Photo courtesy of Bonnie Plants/ARA
Read More:6 High-Yield Organic Vegetables & Herbs
April 10th, 2010 - Barbara Feiner
Organic gardeners are busily cutting out sections of lawn, retiring flower beds, building raised vegetable beds and spending lots of spare time playing in the dirt.
In fact, many are first-timers, tilling the soil to save money on grocery bills.
Growing your own organic vegetables offers additional benefits:
- Freshness and flavor
- The ability to exercise control over what your family eats
- Healthful exercise
- Family activity time
Here are 5 tips for getting started from the experts at Bonnie Plants, a green-garden wholesaler in Union Springs, AL:
- Pick your plot. Most vegetables thrive when exposed to plenty of sun, so pick a plot that gets at least 6 to 8 hours of direct sun every day. It’s OK to plant leafy greens like lettuce and spinach in shadier spots, but get them in the ground in the cooler part of the season. Tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and squash do best in the hotter months.
- Think outside the box planter. Get creative with space. You don’t need a huge yard to plant a veggie patch. Try planting lettuce under tomato vines, or mix veggies into flower beds among the colorful blooms.
- Give veggies a raise. Try raised beds, which offer an easy solution to planning out a plot. They’ll enable you to use near-perfect soil, better organize your garden, improve drainage and more easily maintain your plants. Timesaving tip: Use transplants instead of seeds.
- Opt for natural/organic plant food. Be sure to use safe, organic and all-natural products in your garden. Research shows plants are healthier when gardeners use organically based foods in lieu of chemical options.
- Water wisely. One inch of water per week is adequate for most vegetables. Soaker hoses or drip systems deliver water efficiently and keep foliage dry, fending off leaf diseases.
Tune in tomorrow for a list of Bonnie Plants’ favorite seasonal planting picks.
Photo courtesy of Bonnie Plants/ARA
Read More:Dig Up Your Dinner: 5 Organic Gardening Tips
March 19th, 2010 - Barbara Feiner
Fra Diavolo is a tomato-based Italian sauce made with chile peppers and usually served over pasta or seafood.
In today’s recipe, cauliflower takes center stage, steamed until crisp-tender in a broth seasoned with browned onions, raisins, tomato paste and a pinch of red pepper flakes.
“Pairing innocent-looking cauliflower with fiendishly hot chiles adds devilishly smart health benefits to this dish,” says recipe creator Dana Jacobi (The Essential Best Foods Cookbook, New American Plate Cookbook). “As you may know, chile peppers contain capsaicin, a potent anti-inflammatory. Some research shows their potential to reduce the risk of blood clots and cholesterol oxidation that can increase the risk of artery disease.
“Chiles are high in beta-carotene and their heat may boost metabolism, which may contribute to weight loss. There is also research under way investigating possible ways eating chile peppers may have benefits for people with diabetes.”
All of the ingredients should be available at your local natural and organic food store.
Cauliflower Fra Diavolo
Makes 6 antipasto or 4 side-dish servings
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1½ cups onion, diced in ¾-inch pieces
1 large garlic clove, finely chopped
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon sugar
Pinch red pepper flakes
1/2 cup fat-free, reduced-sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup raisins
4 cups cauliflower in 1-inch florets
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
- In deep medium skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add onions and cook until golden, 4 to 6 minutes, stirring often.
- Add garlic, and cook until onions are browned, 1-2 minutes, stirring often.
- Add tomato paste, thyme, sugar and red pepper flakes. Pour in broth and stir to combine.
- Add cauliflower, raisins, and salt and pepper to taste, stirring to coat them with tomato mixture. Cover and cook over medium-low heat until cauliflower is tender, about 10 minutes, stirring often.
- Transfer cauliflower to serving bowl, and let sit until warm or at room temperature before serving. This dish keeps, covered in refrigerator, for up to 3 days. Bring to room temperature before serving.
Per side dish serving: 150 calories, 4 g total fat (0.5 g saturated fat), 29 g carbohydrate, 4 g protein, 5 g dietary fiber, 160 mg sodium
Recipe and photo courtesy of the American Institute for Cancer Research
Read More:Cauliflower Fra Diavolo